“What an amazing night.”The positive online comments keep pouring in!
There were several people in Lincoln today meeting about trying to organise a state chapter of the SCA in Nebraska.Organising people over in Omaha and Lincoln (the state capital) is not too hard, the…Continue
This organization is a very serious threat to a "Secular Nation." These people are using our tax dollars to go into school buildings after hours and teach this garbage to our children! I'm sure…Continue
I live in Southern, Ohio and the Bible-Belt runs strong through the hills in our community. I frequent many city council meetings because of the corruption that has been within our tiny city for…Continue
Washington, DC – The Secular Coalition for America today named the Daily Caller “the most unethical news publication." The Daily Caller earned the "award" after numerous discriminatory and unethical emails were sent by Christopher Bedford, Associate Editor at the Daily Caller, to the Secular Coalition. The most recent email read, “Take a day off from hating God, kids and babies.” Bedford's actions were supported by Daily Caller Editor in Chief, Tucker Carlson.
The Secular Coalition said the journalism code of ethics—which includes principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality and fairness—must be extended to all groups equally regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. The Coalition decided to issue the award as a lighthearted way of drawing attention to media bias against nontheists.
The issue of media bias impacts the nontheistic community, but it is one area that is often ignored in discussions of discrimination against nontheists. The Freethought Society keeps a list of instances of media-related discrimination against nontheists, including stereotyping by the media.
Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, said the Coalition routinely receives comments from reporters that indicate bias against nontheists, “but the Daily Caller takes the cake.”
The most recent example of poor journalistic ethics on the part of the Daily Caller came on May 3, in response to a press release the Secular Coalition sent on the so-called morning after pill, or “Plan B.” After his initial email, Bedford followed up with:
“I'm not sure what y'all believe in beyond annoying America, but if it's what most atheists believe, I hope it comes true: I hope you live a long, happy life surrounded by friends and family, and when, in many years time, it is your turn to rejoin your earth mommy, you become one with her, growing into a majestic and beautiful tree that some hardworking American fells, turns into paper and prints a Bible on.”
Bedford has responded to at least five SCA press releases with escalating rhetoric over the course of the last year. The majority of responses espoused negative sentiments toward the nontheistic viewpoint, but one, sent to the Secular Coalition’s female communications manager, read “Here's a Dick pic.” Only after scrolling to the bottom of the email was a picture of Dick Cheney visible.
When Executive Director, Edwina Rogers contacted The Daily Caller’s Editor in Chief, Tucker Carlson, to discuss religiously-based media bias at the Daily Caller, Carlson supported Bedford’s actions and statements saying, “That's not ‘hate.’ It's disagreement. I'm confused by what strikes me as your disproportionate outrage.”
The Daily Caller claims that it is a legitimate news publication offering unbiased reporting. In an interview with Politico, Carlson described the publication's work as "hard-nosed reporting" on politics and government and said The Daily Caller will not be tied to ideology but rather will be "breaking stories of importance." In a Washington Post article, Carlson said "We're not enforcing any kind of ideological orthodoxy on anyone."
Rogers points out that impartiality is the foundation that allows journalists to cover news without imposing any ideological orthodoxy on the reader.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics urges reporters to, “Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others; Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status; Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant; Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility” among other tenets.
“The basic tenets of journalism ethics are clear—are we to understand that those basic ethics apply to other groups, but not atheists?” Rogers said. “We’ve seen overt discrimination in areas of media such as advertising, and the amount of news coverage given to religion vs. atheism, but discrimination coming directly from reporters—who are supposed to be impartial—is an area that is rarely discussed.”
Over the last year, the Secular Coalition has received nearly 20 biased responses from reporters who have received press releases. Other responses include comments like, “I feel sorry for you…I believe strongly in Jesus Christ and God the Father," "You should be ashamed,” and “Move to Iraq. Then you won't have to worry about it."
CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA Communications Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202)299-1091 ext. 205, cell (202)630-9725
WASHINGTON, DC—The Secular Coalition for America today sent a letter to the White House, pointing out additional Internal Revenue Service failings, including neglecting to investigate churches and religious charities that engage in “politicking from the pulpit.”
In its letter, the Secular Coalition said “religious charities have been flaunting their flagrant disregard for [IRS] laws for years. Over 1600 pastors participated in last year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday, where pastors not only violated the law by lobbying and endorsing candidates, but filmed their illegal actions and mailed them to the IRS.”
The Secular Coalition’s letter comes on the heel of another letter sent to the White House by Franklin Graham earlier this week, asserting that the IRS is improperly targeting religious charities for investigation, including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham’s complaint is one in a series of allegations this week that the IRS is unfairly targeting churches for scrutiny.
“Churches and religious organizations are being singled out—for special treatment,” said Edwina Rogers, executive director for the Secular Coalition for America. “Churches and other religious organizations have been using their tax exempt statuses for years to politick from the pulpit are rarely even investigated for their flagrant disregard of IRS law.”
In fact, churches are heavily insulated against general procedures and investigations that other secular non-profits are subject to. The Church Audit Procedures Act, §7611 of the Internal Revenue Code, stipulates that only “an appropriate high-level Treasury official” can initiate an investigation, if there is suspicion that the church is incompliant with 501(c)(3) requirements. The Act defines “appropriate high-level Treasury official” as “the Secretary of the Treasury or any delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury whose rank is no lower than that of a principal Internal Revenue officer for an internal revenue region.”
In October 2012, despite an influx of complaints to the IRS regarding churches that had become too political, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officially halted tax audits of churches until it can adopt rules that clarify which high-level employee has the authority to initiate them, resulting in outright non-enforcement of electioneering restrictions.
Under current 501(c)(3) law, churches are barred from electioneering and limited in other political activity. Specifically, the anti-electioneering provision prohibits any section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization from endorsing or opposing any candidate for public office. Churches are allowed to engage only in “insubstantial” lobbying, spending no more than 20 percent of the church’s budget on lobbying—a restriction nearly impossible to uphold since churches are not required to submit 990 forms indicating their income or expenditures.
“Not only are churches shielded from basic investigations in a way that no other non-profits are, but the laws that are in place for them are nearly impossible to uphold,” Rogers said. “Because churches do not have to submit a 990 form how then can the IRS hold them accountable for breaking other IRS laws that limit the amount the amount of political lobbying they do?”
Secular 501(c)(3) organizations that surpass the 20 percent cap on lobbying or electioneer in any way are in jeopardy of losing their tax exempt, and investigations and can be initiated by low-level IRS officials.
To address concerns of religious privileging in the tax code, , the Secular Coalition has urged Congress to require religious nonprofits to submit 990 forms like other nonprofit organizations, and to enforce the largely ignored current IRS rules that bar churches from endorsing political candidates.
Earlier this month, the Joint Committee on Taxation for included the Coalition’s recommendations on removing religious privileging from the tax code, in a report submitted May 7, 2013 to the House Ways and Means Committee. The Secular Coalition is now urging the House Ways and Means committee to adopt the SCA’s recommendations in the final bill the Committee puts forth to the full House.
The Secular Coalition for America represents atheists, agnostics, humanists and others who don’t possess and absolutely belief in God on Capitol Hill. The Secular Coalition lobbies to protect and strengthen the secular character of the government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Coalition is comprised of 11 member organizations and 118 endorsing organizations. The Secular Coalition has chapters in all 50 states that lobby lawmakers at the state level.
Recently, I read two articles about dying for a cause. The first, on these pages, by Sally Quinn, addressed the Dalai Lama’s lack of compassion for not criticizing the self-immolation of more than 100 Tibetans since 2009 to protest China’s occupation of Tibet. The second article concerned 813 Italians who were just declared “saints” by the Catholic Church because they chose death in 1480 rather than convert to Islam.
Different religions have formulated arguments about what constitutes a “just war” and causes worth dying for. Some of history’s most brutal wars have been holy wars, perpetrated by people who expected heavenly rewards for killing countless “heretics.” They justified their massacres because designated infidels either did not believe in “the one true god” or did not worship the one true god in the one true way. Most of the civilized world now condemns those who take innocent lives, regardless of the cause. More nuanced is whether we can justify taking our own life for a cause, the theme in both articles mentioned above.
I can respect, if not agree with, those who believe their suicide will save additional lives and increase the happiness of others. That was the goal of the self-immolators trying to free Tibet and bring back the Dalai Lama. On the other hand, I always look for ways to resolve problems without loss of life. This is why war must always be a last resort.
I reserve my harshest criticisms of religion for its practices that intrude on the lives of those outside the religion. This doesn’t mean I can easily ignore religious practices I find ridiculous, which brings me to Catholic sainthood. How many miracles does it take to change a dead human into a saint? The Catholic Church says two, but no such miracle has ever been as documented as, say, would be a televised prayer that results in a light bulb changing itself.